Sunday, September 1, 2013

Mentor Sentences

Many of you were wanting more information on Mentor Sentences (warning there aren't many pictures in the post). I guess let me first define what a mentor sentence is...basically it is an example of a well-written sentence that is written correctly. Yep that's all it boils down to, pretty simple.

See most of us are use to using Daily Language Practice or Review. This gives students a sentence that is written incorrectly and has them correct it. Which can be useful when teaching grammar and being able to recognize mistakes (now you Mentor Sentence gurus don't faint because I said that). These are just my personal feelings, and what I have found to work best for me.

But the idea of Mentor Sentences is that the students need to see sentences that are written correctly. My viewpoint...they need to see a great sentence to be able to write a great sentence. The person responsible for and behind the idea Mentor Sentences is Jeff Anderson (you can view his website here).

There is no special list of Mentor Sentences, it's a great sentence that really stands out for whatever reason, that can be found in any text (I have pulled many from news articles). One thing I did learn over the past few years was to help with planning and getting those CCC standards, knowledge standards, and whatever else they may be called was to find a sentence for the week that matched a specific topic I may need to teach. For example...I know I need to cover commas or I recognize the students are struggling with semicolons in their writing; I will look for a great example sentence from text that we are reading or have read that has and uses commas or semicolons. (It helps that they have seen the text before, allows them to connect...and you can use this to help bring in those other subject areas...Social Studies).

Once you have found your Mentor Sentence you spend the week "tearing it apart"; recognizing those things that make it such a great sentence. Now this is where I feel you can make it your own. I have used and seen many different variations of the Mentor Sentence schedule.

The most common is as follows:
Monday: Invitation to Notice: Students notice things about the sentence. I really work with my students on the fact that they need to notice the structure of the sentence not the parts of speech. They can notice the punctuation at this point.
Tuesday: Invitation to Notice-Parts of Speech: (my kids got confused with the two titles being the same, so I called it Identify). Students notice the parts of speech and label them (I have a guide/key on the different ways to label).
Wednesday: Invitation to Revise- Students add to and change the mentor sentence to make it more interesting.
Thursday: Invitation to Imitate- Students write their own mentor sentences using the mentor sentence as a guideline for the structure and parts of speech.

Now on to what I do. Like all teachers I have taken what works best for me and my students. This may vary from year to year. I still think there are parts of Daily Grammar Practice that work for me and therefore I continue to use them in my BIG 5 as morning work (maybe another post for another day). I incorporate my Mentor Sentence into my Language Arts block (again it may differ when according to day, schedule, and so on).

I always write the sentence on a poster or sentence strip that stays up the entire week. I do all of my noticing, revising, etc. using my document camera and interactive board.

Here is my schedule (it's even different from last year)
Day 1: (I use days because some weeks I may start on Tuesday, it's just a little less confusing) Invitation to Notice/Identify. I combined the two days because of lack of time. I allow them to Notice first...then we share. Then they Identify, and yep we share again.
Day 2: Invitation to Revise
Day 3: Invitation to Imitate
Day 4: Diagram it! One year this worked amazingly. The students loved diagramming...and I admit I love it as well. It really helped me when I was a student to quickly identify parts of speech. I was/am a very visual learner and by diagramming I was able to visualize every single part of speech. Now last year this didn't work so well for my kids, it just didn't click. So this year I'm not doing it, at least to start with.

Finally my previous school did make assessments for the Mentor Sentences that were worded very similar to state testing. This gave the students that practice (for testing) and let's face it us teachers grades! They usually consisted of 10 questions. A few used the mentor sentence with one error, and they had to find it and explain why that sentence needed that particular "thing" (ex: why does it need a comma there). The other questions had to do with the grammar or structure of the sentence that we really focused on that week and possibly the week prior (ex: commas, semicolons, nouns, adjective, etc.)

So that all being said (thanks for reading it all!!!) there is a GREAT resource that I found called Ideas By Jivey (here is the link). It may give you more/better information, and has some great links as well.

And for being such AMAZING followers I am attaching the link to my posters. Again this is how Mentor Sentences work for me, I'm not saying it's the best way for you.

Click here for the posters!


Mrs. Anderson said...

Great idea!! Thanks for sharing your mentor posters.
Connie Anderson

jivey said...

Thanks so much for sharing my link! :) I love mentor sentences and feel like my kiddos benefit from them SO much!
ideas by jivey
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Lessons Learned said...

Thank you so very much for sharing this. I cannot wait to put this up on Monday!

Mel said...

Do you have an example of the test you gave? We are doing mentor sentences this year and I'm looking for better ways to assess.

Dandelions and Dragonflies said...

I'd be happy to share...could you send an email address to


Kat said...

Giving students well crafted sentences that focus on conventions, stylistic devices, and interesting word choice was the mainstay of my 45 years in the classroom. I agree that an important step is having them create their own sentences modeled on the mentor sentence in order to have them integrate the patterns and devices to gain greater language control. A bonus is that as they read, they begin to be aware of the craft of good writing.

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Unknown said...

I love the posters you have underneath your sentence. Do you have them in electronic form?

Dandelions and Dragonflies said...

Yes. At the end of this post there is a link to the posters. If you are unable to access them please email me so that I can send them that way!

Nichole Gavin said...

Hi there, after reading the research about how Daily Grammer review does not help the students to master grammar, I am excited to switch over to mentor sentences this year! Thank you for the write up, I really understand the process!
I was wondering if you still had access to the assessment piece that you could share with me- I would love to see what it looked like, and I think it would be a great bonus to discuss with my teaching partners when I am explaining this to them (and see if they are open to switching from D.O.L to mentor sentences!)

Thanks you!

Dandelions and Dragonflies said...

I am happy to help Nichole, I would just need you to email me so that I can email the documents to you...

I look forward to hearing from you!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so very much for posting this! It really helped me understand what M sentences are and why/how to use them!

Anonymous said...

Do you happen to have a copy of the assessment you gave? I am implementing mentor sentences into my classroom and completing my graduate research on their effect and would love a way to progress monitor.

Thank you!

Unknown said...

I would love to take a peak at the assessment that you are talking about! I also would love to see some examples of sentences you have completed with your students if you have any.
Thanks so much!


Unknown said...

Thank you so much for your post! We are using mentor sentences this year and I would love to learn more. Do you know if Jeff Anderson has a book that I could read to guide my teaching?

Unknown said...

I too would love to see your assessment example. This is new to me and I would love to implement it!
Thank you!

Mindvalley said...

Thanks for sharing such great information. It really helpful to me.

Anonymous said...

You have many grammatical errors and sloppy construction in your article. It says a lot when the teacher can’t do the task correctly. I point this out so you can fix it and make your writing stronger next time.